Prelates condemn killing of Dutch missionary

AN OFFICIAL of the Catholic Church is alarmed over the death of a Dutch missionary in San Fernando, Pampanga, saying the incident sent a chilling effect to people fighting for social justice.

Willem Geertman, 67, was gunned down by motorcycle riding men on Tuesday afternoon in front of his office in San Telebastagan village. He was shot at close range.

“That’s really alarming. Does this mean that all those fighting for the rights of the farmers are being targeted for liquidation?” said Father Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-Nassa).

With this, the Catholic priest is wondering on who would be the next victim on the growing list of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.

“We also go to different areas are they going to target us also?” said Gariguez, a human rights advocate who has been helping the farm workers in Hacienda Luisita, a sugar estate, which belonged to the maternal relatives of President Benigno Aquino III.

Gariguez said he does not personally know the Dutch missionary, who was the executive director of the Alay Bayan Inc. (ABI).

“Although he belongs to a different group and we don’t really know him, just the same he was a defender of rights,” he said.

Malacañang said a closed-circuit television (CCTV) video obtained by the police at the crime scene could help in the investigation.

“There is a CCTV; they were able to record the vehicle. I don’t know if they capture the face of the perpetrators. It’s now on the process of identifying the vehicle and also the assailants,” said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

He said the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) has formed a task force comprised of the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and the local police of Pampanga to investigate the killing of Geertman.

On the other hand, the CBCP official is hoping that President Aquino will address the problem of human rights violation in the country in his State of the Nation Address (Sona) on July 23.
“He should address this in his Sona. He should not focus only anti-corruption because there are other problems in the country,” Gariguez said.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines also condemned the death of the foreign missionary.
“We stand on the inviolability of human life and no one has the right to tamper with somebody else’s life much more to take that life away. We stand on the Christian vision of a community or country where the humanity of each person deserves all the respect regardless of their economic or political status,” the group said in a statement.
Geertman is the second European community worker killed in the past few months.

In October last year, Fr. Fausto Tentorio, an Italian priest in Mindanao, was shot inside a church in North Cotabato.
Both Geertman and Tentorio were active in several environmental, anti mining and indigenous peoples’ advocacies.
“The death of Willem is a big loss to the entire network. We mourn and condemn his brutal killing. But as we mourn the loss of a committed development worker, we also vow to continue his good works for vulnerable communities and humanitarian response,” Citizens’ Disaster Response Network chairperson Jimmy Khayog said.
Geertman lived in the Philippines for 46 years and pushed the rights and welfare of disaster-affected people in rural communities of Central Luzon.

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